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Evolving Storage Strategies for a New Computing Era

The time has come for evolving storage strategies for a new computing era.  The storage, movement and delivery of data and services to an increasingly remote and mobile user community are challenging the data management and protection systems of most organizations.  CIOs and storage administrators are plagued by disparate systems and incompatible data sets resulting from mergers, outmoded legacy infrastructures, stubbornly maintained departmental and individual data silos, and the explosion in both data retention requirements to meet GRC (governance, regulatory, compliance) mandates and new forms of data, commonly referred to as big data.

Meanwhile, new distributed computing architectures and approaches to agile application development have made computing far more scalable and dynamic than ever before.  But while some of this data may be stored within the enterprise infrastructure, a growing share of the data is located in a public cloud, in a SaaS application or simply as a continuous stream of semi- and unstructured data. 

Yet despite the wealth of data and content available today, most business users continue to struggle to access information they need to gain deeper insights into the business for better and faster decision making.  Vital information is often overlooked, resulting in missed opportunities to uncover hidden patterns, relationships and dependencies.

The need to evolve storage strategies corresponds with the desire by CFOs to continue shifting IT budgets from capital spending to more predictable operating expenses.  Storage costs have continued to escalate, now accounting for approximately 20% of total IT budget for large enterprises, even as utilization has remained low.  As a result, storage administrators are under increasing pressure as the pace of change in the storage market has accelerated from historic norms.

New Technologies to Achieve Mission and Objectives

The principal mission of any storage strategy is to maximize resource utilization.  Objectives of this strategy are to improve workload performance and user experience while reducing operating costs and lifting return on investment (ROI).  Understanding the value of data is the key to achieving these objectives and realizing the mission.

As a result, new storage technologies and architectures are being implemented to modernize data management for increasingly complex virtualized and cloud-based environments.  Automated tiering, solid-state drives (SSDs), virtual appliances, and primary storage deduplication, coupled with cloud and Hadoop, maximize storage utilization, improve application performance and user experience, and facilitate deeper analytics on larger data sets to drive better/faster decision making while helping to achieve ROI objectives.

We recommend that storage administrators focus on solutions that complement their current storage infrastructure and gradually let them shift from managing storage infrastructure to managing data.  The evolution toward a software-defined approach to storage also enables scale-out storage that can use commodity hardware, facilitating the move away from traditional SANs and NAS systems toward cloud and Hadoop clusters. 

A hybrid storage solution offers the best price/performance configuration for most organizations.  I/O intensive applications get the performance and reliability of flash in SSDs while the enterprise improves the utilization of back-end, high-capacity, lower-cost hard disk drives (HDDs), which remain good options for backups and applications with lower performance needs.  Tape, particularly with newer scale and performance capabilities, is still a viable option for archiving, especially for GRC and historical data.

Enterprises should shift to a mentality that all of their data is big data.  This applies to data residing in legacy systems or newer-cloud-based architectures and regardless of whether data is internally generated or sourced from a third-party provider.  A more holistic approach that breaks down data silos across different IT teams and departments is the path to assuring service delivery, gaining deeper systems and customer insights and improving operational efficiency.

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